Episode 52: Despite the Traumatic Complexities, He Grabbed Hold of the Vision that was Inside of Him

Guest: Justin Volpe

Justin expresses the depth of his experiences with trauma, substance abuse issues, cycling through the system, mental health challenges that have been part of his journey, and the recovery process which all led him an opportunity to pave his career successes in the field. He shares what it’s like to be raised in a religious cult led by prominent family members who also met with mental health challenges of their own. Justin mentioned he was not allowed to interact with anyone outside the cult, with consequences of being “harmed by the apocalypse”. He shared that when he was taken out of the cult and attended public school, those beliefs from the cult life stuck with him, making it hard for him to make sense of the life of the cult and public life outside of the cult. Justin openly talks about drug and alcohol use starting at age 14, after a close friend of his died as well as learning about the death of his grandfather which was announced on the front page of the newspaper, the leader of the cult. As addictions escalated, focus on school lessened, and he continued to escape from the pain that he endured. Justin shared how he cycled through several opportunities where he got cleaned, yet things continued to waver even after his period of incarceration. He spoke about what rock bottom looked like for him and how he got himself back up. His key message to the listeners is that: treat people equally, you don’t know what the other person is going through; learn about what trauma means so you can approach both individuals and situations with sensitivity and care; don’t take things personally; it’s okay to get help, remain hopeful; your voice matters.


Guest Bio: Justin is an international consultant, advocate, and peer specialist based out of Miami, FL. He has presented and trained mental health facilities and other organizations on trauma informed practices and used his life experiences to discuss workforce issues and connecting community providers to better serve individuals in need. Previously before his role with ‘National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors’, NASMHPD, Justin worked as a Jail Diversion Peer Liaison for the 11th Judicial Criminal Mental Health Project for 14 years. He has worked as a Certified Recovery Peer Specialist in Florida since 2008 and has local and national experience. Justin has extensive work experience in the community and has supervised and coordinated thousands of engagements with participants with serious mental health and co-occurring issues in the criminal justice system. He has assisted in training over 2,500 Miami Dade Law Enforcement Officers in Crisis Intervention Team Training.


His passion for this work is based on bringing systems together locally and nationally while reducing stigma and advocating for the persons served. He is recently the recipient of the 2021 Fred Frese Award from CIT International and has many other awards and achievements; including multiple articles and film (Definition of Insanity, PBS 2020) with his experience with the Jail Diversion Program and the upcoming Ken Burns Documentary: “Hiding in Plain Sight”, set to air June 27th and 28th this year, in 2022 on PBS.


Passionate about:  

Jail Diversion Program, Miami FL: https://www.miamidade.gov/global/police/diversion-program.page

A PBS film, Definition of Insanity: https://doifilm.com/

A PBS film, Hiding in Plain Sight: https://kenburns.com/films/hiding-in-plain-sight-youth-mental-illness/


Where to find me